Bernard Luster Enjoys Football Life in Finland

American Football is an international sport being played all over the world! This great sport is taking people all over the world and introducing them to different cultures in the process. Some players go to various teams and countries throughout their career. Some players make stops in great countries and create eras for their career. Bernard Luster is in the mist of the Finland era of his Football career. Playing for the Helsinki Roosters this year, he has been kind enough to do a short interview about his time in Finland and the different cultural aspects of life in Finland. Checkout the Finnish version at Gridiron.fi

 

BERNARD LUSTER INTERVIEW

 

Bernard Luster attended Corinth High School in Mississippi before playing college football for
Northeast Mississippi Community College and William Penn University (Iowa). Photo Credit: Sami Ranta

How many years have you been playing Football in Europe/Overseas?

I’ve been in Europe for five years.

 

How many seasons have you spent in Finland?

This will be going on my third season in Finland.

 

Why did you choose to play in Finland repeatedly?

I love the organization I play for (Helsinki Roosters) and the bond I have with the team.

 

What are a few positive cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

I enjoy the people for the simple fact that they’re friendly and genuine. Also enjoy the 
public transportation. Makes it really easy to get anywhere.

Luster began his professional career with the West Texas Roughnecks indoor football team where he was named Offensive Player of the Year. Photo Credit: Harri Koivunen

 

 

What are a few negative cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

Before getting to know people they’re pretty shy and may come off rude. Also they have 
no sense of personal space, which is only a bother because what I’m use to back home.

 

What are some positive differences in the American Football culture in Finland?

Week to week competition is equally competitive.

 

What some negative differences in the American Football culture in Finland?

Not much negative, just like other countries, with coaching and repetition the talent and level of play continues to get better yearly.

 

What suggestions do you have to ease the cultural transition for American imports in Finland?

Come with an open mind and take advantage of getting to learn a new culture.

 

What kind of advice do you have for anyone interested in playing American Football in Europe or Finland?

Take advantage of the opportunity and see the world. Enjoy the way of life that the country has to offer and participate in that cultures festivities.

Luster continued has his professional career in Europe with the Marburg Mercenaries (Germany) and now the Helsinki Roosters (2x Vaahteraliiga Champion). Photo Credit: SAJL

 

 

Roman Runner: The Finland Football Expert

American Football is an international sport being played all over the world! This great sport is taking people all over the world and introducing them to different cultures in the process. Finland is one of those places where football players get to experience an unique culture. Roman Runner of the Hämeenlinna Huskies has been kind enough to do a short interview about playing in Finland and sharing his experiences. Checkout the Finnish version at Gridiron.fi

Roman Runner Interview

 

Roman Runner attended Freedom High School in Oakley, California before playing Football at Idaho University.Photo Credit: AP/Dean Hare

How many years have you been playing Football in Europe/Overseas?

This will be my 4th season

 

How many seasons have you spent in Finland?

This will also be my 4th season

 

Why did you choose to play in Finland repeatedly?

Well I tend to Receive the most or the best offers from Teams in Finland. I am consistent with my skill level, durable enough to play full seasons, versatile to play every skill position, selfless athlete. I uphold this reputation naturally, it is who I am as person, that then transfers to the game of football. After finishing my 3rd year, this is no secret in Finland, also that my game is only getting better, I am very far away from my skills declining. Which has a lot towards how I prepare for seasons and the lack of partying I do. Also, I see that this league is getting better every year, a lot of players from last year came back, it’s a good euro league to play in, I love being a part of it.

What are a few positive cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

I am a city guy, I live in San Francisco, its hectic and very fast pace, even during the Summer time. The things that I like about Finland that even in Helsinki, time can go by slower, more time to appreciate life. They also say Finnish people can be very shy, which is true. But how technology has embowered Metro cities like SF, people here have become more anti-social than ever. In Finland, I see that they still do things a little bit more old fashion in social terms; I like that.

Runner began his professional career in Finland with the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. Since then he has played for the Porvoon Butchers, Turku Trojans, and currently the Hämeenlinna Huskies, all teams in Finland. Photo Credit: Turku Trojans

What are a few negative cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

Honestly bruh, with this whole Trump take over going on here in America, I can’t even downplay anyone else’s culture. In respects of the hardships going on in third world countries. For being a 1st world country, we got the most F’d up crap going on here, on a daily. However, I always miss our food when I am abroad, we for sure got the best.

 

What are some positive differences in the American Football culture in Finland?

It is getting better, slowly but surely, the Finnish players are getting better most definitely. Competition is stronger for sure, we had a few good Finnish players hang up their cleats, which is unfortunate. When a team like Wasa Royals come from a lower division and show promise in the Maple league the first year. As well as this upcoming year, the Hämeenlinna Huskies who has so far, been great in off-season transactions. You can see that the right people are being put in place to make this a better league.

 

What some negative differences in the American Football culture in Finland?

Exposure. I understand that Finland is dominated by Ice Hockey and winter sports. However, I don’t think that should discourage the SAJL leaders towards promoting more. I see that TV exposure is getting better, which is a huge step. However, I believe they should put the players in a better position to collaborate with the general population. “All” the willing players, not just a few selected favorite; which has been obvious over the years.

 

What suggestions do you have to ease the cultural transition for American imports in Finland?

For me personally, its second nature to me, I am all too familiar with the culture. A suggestion towards someone new; I actually do know a couple players that will playing in 1st division this year, coming from the bay area. Advice I would give them would be, be yourself but understand the environment isn’t the same. Somethings just won’t make any sense at all. But always come to realization, that looking back at the Cities/ neighborhoods we come from; this is a blessing. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity, so stay in prayer and make the best of it, and it will treat you good.

 

What kind of advice do you have for anyone interested in playing American Football in Europe or Finland?

You won’t get rich, that’s for sure, unless you land in something rich while your here (ha-ha). Nevertheless, the experience alone is very enriching, so I would definitely recommend playing if you’re looking to continue you career as well as travel.

 

Runner has been a top player in the Maple League every season, earning multiple all-star selections as a wide receiver and defensive back. Photo Credit: FSC Media

American Football in Finland: Jaycen Taylor

American Football is an international sport being played all over the world! This great sport is taking people all over the world and introducing them to different cultures in the process. Some players go to various teams and countries throughout their career. But what about those players who find a country they Love? Those players continue to play in that country for as long as they can. Also those players tend to have a much more accurate depiction of the life in these countries. Finland is one of the countries that is loved by American Football players around the world. Jaycen Taylor of the Helsinki Roosters was kind enough to answer a few questions about his time in Finland and the cultural aspects. Check out the Interview in Finnish on Gridiron.fi

Jaycen Taylor Interview 

 

Jaycen Taylor attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California before playing football at Los Angeles Harbor College and Purdue University. Photo Credit: James Bosher
How many years have you been playing Football in Europe/Overseas?

I have played in Europe for 6 years this will be my 7th year this coming season.

 

How many seasons have you spent in Finland?

3 years in Finland, going on my 4th this season

 

Why did you choose to play in Finland repeatedly?

When I first thought of playing in Europe I saw it an easy way to see as many countries as possible. Then realized that I didn’t have to play in those countries to see them. I liked Finland because of the English they spoke here.

 

 

Taylor began his professional with the Parma Panthers (Italy) where he won two IFL Superbowls. Taylor went on to play for the Swarco Raiders (Austria) before joining the Helsinki Roosters (Finland) in 2014.
Photo Credit: Sami Ranta
What are a few positive cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

Cultural differences I like are Finns are not up for small talk, so they don’t just sit and talk your ear off. They seem to mind their own business.

 

What are a few negative cultural differences you have experienced in Finland?

Cultural differences I don’t like is the Shyness, people don’t seem to friendly, they just come off as rude.

 

What suggestions do you have to ease the cultural transition for American imports in Finland?

Simplest way to transition into Finnish culture is to not take things Finns do so seriously. Do not expect them to be as social as people from where they from (United States). Finns are easy to get along with once you get pass the “they seem Rude” factor.

 

What kind of advice do you have for anyone interested in playing American Football in Europe or Finland?

Anyone wanting to Ball overseas should put themselves out there to as many teams as possible and get your foot in the door. After that the possibilities are endless. But one main thing I feel is that your NFL dreams must be over, because ball overseas is very different, and it may not help u get back to the big time in the States.

 

Taylor has won two Maple Bowls with the Roosters as well an IFAF Europe Champions League title. Taylor is also the recipient of both an IFAF Europe Champions League MVP and Vaahteraliiga MVP award. Photo Credit: Helsinki Roosters

 

The Complexity of Pass Blocking Schemes

Blocking scheme can be the difference in a normal run play and a great one. The same can be said about pass plays, but I’ve never heard anyone actually say it. In the eyes of the casual fan, pass blocking is just 4 defensive lineman trying to get by 5 offensive lineman during a pass play. This is an extreme oversimplification of pass blocking. I would love to go into depth about this issue at a later date, but today I will explain how two common pass blocking schemes are executed on the football field.

BIG ON BIG/BACK ON BACK

This is probably the most used pass protection in the world. Starting with the name, Big on Big means lineman block lineman first (because lineman are big). When an offensive lineman has a defensive lineman covering them, they block that defender.

According to the math, most defenses only have 4 lineman, meaning that one of the offensive linemen are not covered. Typically this player is the right or left guard position. This player is responsible for the Mike/Middle linebacker, who will be considered a big.


The second part of this scheme is Back on Back, meaning runningbacks block linebackers. To avoid confusion, I will explain the blocking of a one back formation (shotgun spread). There should be two linebacker available for the runningback to block, he is responsible for both. Pretty unfair right? The odds of both outside linebackers blitzing is unlikely, but if they do the runningback will block the most dangerous man (usually backside of quarterback).

Another interpretation of Back on Back includes the quarterback blocking one linebacker. In this protection the quarterback’s “block” is more of a responsibility to pass the ball before they get crushed. When a defense has 7 defenders rushing the ball, the quarterback will be responsible for the outside linebacker opposite of the runningback.

* Changing the “Mike” linebacker is one way to adjust the scheme to better fit a team’s specific need

SLIDE PROTECTION

Reading my article on the Zone play will help you understand slide protection. Slide protection is the same as zone blocking, except instead of running down field lineman block blitzing linebackers or double team defensive lineman. In slide protection the lineman block the defensive lineman nearest to them in the direction the slide is called (i.e. slide right means lineman block the nearest lineman to their right). If there is no defensive lineman immediate to them, the offensive linemen will block the nearest blitzing linebacker in the direction of the slide. In the event there is no blitzing linebacker, the offensive lineman will double team the nearest defensive lineman in the direction of the slide.


Normally, when a runningback is involved, they are responsible for the edge opposite of the slide. They are responsible for any defender in that area, not only the defense end position.

*Some slide protection names are awkward and include: Roger, Randy, Rudy, Raazor, Lucy, Lazer, Lulu, Lucky

 

2nd & Long with Robert Johnson: How to beat Man Coverage

Football is more than just running around and hitting people, there is a very large amount of strategy involved. In past articles, I have explained the fundamentals of some very basic football plays used around the world. But what good is having great plays if you don’t know WHEN to use them?!? Football teams have many different ways to decide on their play selections, so I would be foolish to think I could tell anyone the best way, or even the most common method. Instead, I have teamed up with a Mike Leach Air Raid disciple who has made a name for himself in Europe as both a player and coach, Robert Hart Johnson. I will give Robert a few situations with predetermined factors. He will then proceed to explain how to run a successful offensive play in the situation. I have written down his answers, but he does his best work explaining on the chalkboard, like most football coaches.

Robert Johnson is one of the most accomplished American Football players in Europe. He is the winner of 5 Finnish Championships, 2 Vahteraliiga MVP Awards, 1 IFAF Champions League Title, and a member of Touchdown Europe’s Hall of Fame. Robert currently plays Quarterback and serves as the Head Coach for the Helsinki Wolverines in the Finnish League 1st Division

 

2nd & 7

Offense: Shotgun 2×2 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 1 (Man)

Play: Slots Out

Play Explanation

I would run quick outs with the slot receivers. In cover 1 man, I would have a mismatch with an outside linebacker guarding a slot receiver. The outside receivers will run clear outs (Fly or Post routes), The runningback will have an out route against the linebacker in man coverage opposite of the slot receiver quick side. This means that the receiver matched up with the safety will run a seam route which clears the flat area for the runningback to run his out route against the linebacker. Now the Free Safety is out of the play as well as the cornerbacks, so we have clear 1 on 1 matchups with the outside linebackers.

If the defense were to run Cover 2 man, I would run the ball against a 5 man box.

If the defense were to run Cover 0 man, I would a screen or more quick game outside the hashes with the inside receivers. These would be easier throws for the quarterback so we can lead the receivers to the sidelines and prevent getting the ball batted in the air trying to throw in the middle of the field.

 

2nd & 8

Offense: Shotgun 3×1 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 1 (Man)

Play: Mesh

 

Play Explanation

Versus man coverage, my #3 receiver to the trips side will be 1 on 1 with a linebacker, so I will run a mesh route. This is a natural pick play for the #3 receiver and #1 receiver on the opposite side. One of the defenders covering the mesh must go on top of the routes, the receiver that defender is covering will be the open man.

 

 

Hockey Players Could Be Football Players

A lot of different factors contribute to what sports a kid plays growing up. One huge factor is location, location, location. A child raised in Minnesota has a much higher chance of playing Hockey than American Football, and vice-versa for a kid from Alabama. But are the two sports really so different? Yes, and No. From an athletic standpoint the two sports are eerily similar and can be helpful to each other in developing well rounded athletes instead of these one sport participants of the millennial class.

Read the Entire Article Here

 

2nd & Long with Robert Johnson: How to beat Cover 3 and Cover 4

Football is more than just running around and hitting people, there is a very large amount of strategy involved. In past articles, I have explained the fundamentals of some very basic football plays used around the world. But what good is having great plays if you don’t know WHEN to use them?!? Football teams have many different ways to decide on their play selections, so I would be foolish to think I could tell anyone the best way, or even the most common method. Instead, I have teamed up with a Mike Leach Air Raid disciple who has made a name for himself in Europe as both a player and coach, Robert Hart Johnson. I will give Robert a few situations with predetermined factors. He will then proceed to explain how to run a successful offensive play in the situation. I have written down his answers, but he does his best work explaining on the chalkboard, like most football coaches.

Robert Johnson is one of the most accomplished American Football players in Europe. He is the winner of 5 Finnish Championships, 2 Vahteraliiga MVP Awards, 1 IFAF Champions League Title, and a member of Touchdown Europe’s Hall of Fame. Robert currently plays Quarterback and serves as the Head Coach for the Helsinki Wolverines in the Finnish League 1st Division

2nd & 7

Offense: Shotgun 2×2 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 3

Play: Hitch-Seam

Play Explanation

I would just run a basic hitch-seam combination route. The outside receivers would run hithc routes and the slot receiever would run the seam routes. My first option would be to throw to the hitch routes. If the linebacker playing curl to flats is quick to cover the hitch route, we have the seam route.

2nd & 8

Offense: Shotgun 3×1 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 3

Play: Stick 

Play Explanation

On the three-receiver side of the formation, #1 will have a clear route, #2 will run a quick out, and #3 will have a hook route, opening away from the Sam(strong) linebacker. Easy 5 yard gain.

2nd & 7

Offense: Shotgun 2×2 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 4

Play: Mesh

Play Explanation

I would run the Mesh Concept same as cover 2, but now I’m reading the 10 yard out by the Z receiver.

2nd & 8

Offense: Shotgun 3×1 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 4

Play: Curls

Play Explanation

On the three-receiver side of the formation, the #1 receiver will run a curl route, the #2 receiver has a flat, and the #3 receiver runs a curl route against the mike linebacker.

Track Speed Translates Into Football Speed

Big, strong, and FAST! These are the characteristics associated with American Football players. The odds of genetically possessing all three of these attributes is very rare and separates the greats from the average players. Each of these traits can be improved through proper training, in theory (you can’t train to grow 6 inches in height). Contrary to the recent trend of sport specialization, Football players can get bigger, stronger, and FASTER playing other sports. I emphasize the word FAST because I will explain the benefits of running track (as a sprinter) to increase your football speed and overall athleticism.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE

 

 

2nd & Long with Robert Johnson: How to beat Cover 2

Football is more than just running around and hitting people, there is a very large amount of strategy involved. In past articles, I have explained the fundamentals of some very basic football plays used around the world. But what good is having great plays if you don’t know WHEN to use them?!? Football teams have many different ways to decide on their play selections, so I would be foolish to think I could tell anyone the best way, or even the most common method. Instead, I have teamed up with a Mike Leach Air Raid disciple who has made a name for himself in Europe as both a player and coach, Robert Hart Johnson. I will give Robert a situation with predetermined factors. He will then proceed to explain how to run a successful offensive play in the situation. I have written down his answers, but he does his best work explaining on the chalkboard, like most football coaches.

Robert Johnson is one of the most accomplished American Football players in Europe. He is the winner of 5 Finnish Championships, 2 Vahteraliiga MVP Awards, 1 IFAF Champions League Title, and a member of Touchdown Europe’s Hall of Fame. Robert currently plays Quarterback and serves as the Head Coach for the Helsinki Wolverines in the Finnish League 1st Division.

2nd & 7

Offense: Shotgun 2×2 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 2

Play: Georgia (Trap)/ Shakes (Corners)

Play Explanation

If we are on our side of the field, I would run Georgia (Trap) because we have 5 guys in the box. With the pulling guard taking care of the mike linebacker, we can gain a minimum of 5 yards. This will set us up for a 3rd & 2, so we can call any quick game or an easy RPO (Run/Pass Option).

 

If we are on our opponent’s side of the field, I would be more aggressive in my play call. I would run Shakes (Burst Corners).  The outside receivers will run burst corners to activate the safeties. Our fast inside receiver will run a middle seam against the mike linebacker. Then we will have the runningback run an angle route to the middle of the field. If the Mike linebacker runs with the seam route we can throw to the running back who will be replacing the area vacated by the linebacker. But first we must read the safeties to see if they are being activated by the corner routes. If they are activated, the seam route will be open because you a receiver matched up with a linebacker.

2nd & 8

Offense: Shotgun 3×1 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 2

Play: Quick Out

Play Explanation

On the three-receiver side of the formation, I would have the number 1 receiver run a fade or clear route, number 2 has a bend route, and number 3 would run a quick out.

If the number 1 receiver does his job correctly and releases outside to get the cornerback to turn and run with him, the quick out route by receiver number 3 is open. If number 1 must release inside, we have put the safety in a compromising position. The safety must decide between the bend route the #2 receiver is running or the fade route the #1 receiver has, we just throw to the open guy.

The bend route will be open in the open grass area between the two safeties on defense. To make this window as wide as possible, we will have the receiver on the backside of the formation run a burst corner route to pull that side safety away from the middle of the field. Now that the safety is out of that empty area, we can almost float the ball into the grass area.

Basketball Makes Better Football Players

When I think about an athlete, my mind conjures up images of football, basketball, baseball, track, hockey, skiing, soccer, and anything that requires skilled physical activity. In today’s sport culture, we are developing less athletes and more sport participants. Depending on age, location, and sex, kids are being required to participate in only one sport year-round at an alarmingly early age. This specialization of sports is leading to overworked kids and lack of youth involvement in sports around the globe. To combat this, I suggest that athletes everywhere try the old-fashioned way of playing multiple sports to prevent injury and increase overall athleticism. To make it easier to understand, I’ll explain how playing Basketball could benefit present and future American Football players. . .

Read the entire article here